Florida Senators Rubio, Scott vote ‘no’ on bipartisan gun bill

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Florida Republican Sens. Rick Scott and Marco Rubio on Thursday voted against a bipartisan gun-control bill in the Senate, opposing the measure even though both men have shown a willingness in the past to support additional gun restrictions.

The Senate approved the bill by a tally of 65-33, with 15 GOP senators, including Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, joining 48 Democratic and two independent members in support. The legislation will now head to the Democratic-controlled House, where it is expected to pass before being signed into law by President Joe Biden.

Its passage is a rare moment of bipartisan agreement in Congress, especially on a contentious issue like guns that for years has deeply split the two political parties.

Although Rubio and Scott both said they liked some provisions of the bill, each thought it ultimately went too far to restrict gun rights and didn’t do enough to respect due process.

“I promised the people of Florida I would do everything I could to keep our schools and communities safe while protecting their constitutional rights,” Rubio said in a statement issue before the vote. “This bill fails that test.”

Rubio did praise the bill for permanently authorizing the Federal Clearinghouse on School Safety, a set of federal recommendations for schools to help keep their students safe. He had introduced legislation to do so last year.

In 2018, after a shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School that left 17 people dead and 17 more injured, Rubio said he would support tighter restrictions on the sale of some firearms.

Lawmakers from both parties negotiated the gun bill after a school shooting last month in Uvalde, Texas, left 21 dead, including 19 students.

The tragedy, which came just weeks after 10 died at a grocery store shooting in Buffalo in which Black people were specifically targeted, has reignited a national debate about gun-related violence, similar to the one that occurred in 2018 after the Parkland shooting.

That year, then-governor Scott signed into law a measure known as the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Public Safety Act, raising the age limit for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21 and increasing funding for mental health care, among other provisions.

While some Democrats have said that the federal bill before the Senate is modeled after that legislation, Scott rejected those comparisons.

“The Senate bill is unacceptably weak on protecting due process & automatically restores gun rights to convicted domestic abusers,” Scott tweeted. “That’s why I can’t support it.”

Some conservatives have criticized a provision in the bill that closes the so-called “boyfriend loophole,” which bars people from having a gun if they have been convicted of assault against someone they once had an intimate and serious relationship with, even if he or she didn’t live with the victim.

Scott also said he opposed a provision in the legislation that would restore the right to own a gun among those convicted of a domestic assault automatically after five years, calling it “soft on crime.” The right to own a gun, he said, should not be automatically restored.

In remarks to reporters Wednesday, Scott said he thought the congressional negotiations were too secretive, in contrast to what he said was the more transparent way Florida lawmakers settled on their legislation in 2018. And he said such changes were more appropriately done in states rather than the federal government.

This story has been updated to reflect Scott’s and Rubio’s votes against the bill.